Author’s Note

 

Let me begin by thanking all of you who have listened to or read the first book of the Baseball Immortal trilogy. It has been my pleasure to deliver this book to sports fans who, like myself, have been struggling for sustenance since major league sports were suspended in March of 2020.  I sincerely hope you have enjoyed the “ride” thus far, and while I would dearly love to provide a preview of coming attractions for the remaining books of the trilogy, I don’t dare, for fear of spoiling the exciting twists and turns that the story takes; nevertheless, I can assure you that “the best is yet to come!” I hope you will continue to follow and enjoy the adventures of the man who claims to be the legendary Detroit superstar.

Books 2 and 3 of the Baseball Immortal trilogy will be presented in the traditional manner, with published books, electronic and audio versions. We don’t presently have a firm timetable as to when the remaining books of the trilogy will become available to the public, as that will depend on the publisher’s timetable, pre-publication marketing and reviews, and ultimately the book’s launch; you may check my website for updates.

Baseball has been a passion of mine ever since my older brother, Don, explained to me the symmetry and beauty of the game when I was a mere 4 ½ years old. I instilled that same epiphany within Savannah Cain, the sports journalist who befriends Ty Cobb in Baseball Immortal. In the neighborhood where I grew up, baseball ruled supreme. Unfortunately, in those years the only organized ball for young kids was Little League, and with very rare exceptions, few of us made the team until we were 11 years old. In the intervening 6 ½ years I played baseball whenever and wherever I could.

Fortunately, my family’s house in Salt Lake City, on the avenues, had a good-sized backyard, which included unfenced land from the neighbor on the south. We created a pitching mound, a five-sided, wooden, home plate, and fashioned bases out of old gunny sacks filled with dirt. It was a ballpark with crazy dimensions (just like some of the major league parks today). Down the right field line was a nearby wooden fence that extended ten feet into the playing area, protecting the next-door neighbor’s precious lawn—since nearly everyone batted right-handed, few were able to master the precision of hitting a homerun over the wooden fence. Where that fence ended, a long, narrow, driveway to the street continued on—occasionally a lucky hitter battered the ball down the shrub-lined driveway, nearly always guaranteeing an inside-the-park homerun. Centerfield had a couple of iron posts for hanging clothes, that had to be navigated in catching short flies. Left-centerfield was the deepest part of the field (except for the seemingly endless driveway); if the left-center fence was cleared by a blast—which was not too often—the euphoria of hitting a homerun was soon eclipsed by the fear that the ball might smash into the neighbor’s picture window. More than once, I raced down the driveway, instead of circling the bases, following the sound of shattered glass—a fugitive from justice, soon to be captured and punished.

A large oak tree hung over the third-base line (near the entrance to the garage), which stymied many a well-hit ball; if it hit the tree trunk, it was foul, if it hit most of the over-hanging branches, it was fair and in play. The real skill was trying to catch the ball before it hit the ground or trying to predict its unpredictable resting point. Though the field was miniature compared to other baseball parks, to an eight-year boy, it seemed cavernous enough.

One of my most favorite baseball memories occurred when the Pittsburgh Pirates played the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series. Vernon Law, a member of the Mormon Church, was the Cy Young Award winner that year and it seemed that the whole city of Salt Lake City was rooting for him and the Pirates to defeat the dreaded Yankees. Led by Mantle, Maris, Ford, Berra and Howard, the Yankees were heavy favorites. In the games the Yankees won, they eviscerated the Pirates (16-3, 10-0 and 12-0).   On the other hand, Pittsburgh’s victories were nail-biters, with Law winning twice (6-4 and 3-2) and Harvey Haddix once (5-2).

 As a nine-year old boy, the future of my world depended on the Pirates winning Game Seven. Back then, the Series’ games were played during daylight. I walked home from school during the noon hour (as was customary). I don’t remember exactly what inning it was when I arrived home, but my family’s attention was glued to the black and white television screen; I do remember celebrating when Hal Smith put the Pirates ahead in the bottom of the eighth with a three-run homer. The Yankees tied the game in the top of the ninth and we cheered until our voices were hoarse when Mazeroski capped off the victory with a walk-off homerun in the bottom half; fortunately, my parents allowed us to play hooky from the afternoon session of school, or we would have missed that historic event. It’s hard to imagine that the losing team scored twice as many runs in the World Series as the winning team.

When we didn’t play baseball outdoors, we played baseball indoors, but in a different form. Probably the happiest day of my young life was when a package from Strat-O-Matic came to my house, containing major league playing cards, which enabled myself, my brothers and neighborhood friends to “own” a team or two and to play an entire major league season based on the 1963 statistics; the games were incredibly realistic and quick (taking only 20-30 minutes), with pitchers and batters performing generally according to their actual skill level in the major leagues.

Becoming a Little-Leaguer at age 11 was a great thrill; only about one kid in five made the cut. I still have vivid memories from many of those games. My family moved to a different neighborhood in Salt Lake City the following year and I became a pitcher for the first time.

After Little League, it was a couple of years in the “Babe Ruth League”, and then the “Automotive League.” I played either third-base or short, until the latter part of those years, when I began pitching again. In High School, I pitched for the Highland Rams. My senior year was a magical season, as I went undefeated in H.S. play and 9-2 in summer American Legion play.  I lamented the fact that there were no baseball scouts to witness my finest pitching performances (including a 1-0 one-hit shutout, with 17 strikeouts in a 7-inning game).  Yet, I received enough notice to catch the eye of Press Summerhayes, the University of Utah baseball coach, who offered me a baseball scholarship. I pitched on the J.V. team as a freshman, but then served a two-year mission in France and Belgium. When I returned, my priorities had changed and I did not pick up a baseball until much later.

At age 39, a short-lived league called ADABA (America Diamond Adult Baseball Association) was formed in California. The temptation to play organized baseball was too great to pass up. I ended up playing two seasons in the league (against primarily former college and minor-league players) and pitched over 200 innings.

The idea for Baseball Immortal developed from my childhood musings. I always dreamed of seeing the great baseball immortals play (including Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Christy Matthewson and countless others), and often wondered how they would perform if transported in time, to the present; Ty Cobb, in particular, always held a special fascination for me, because of his hitting excellence, base-running skills and the psychological warfare he waged with opposing players on the field of play. That interest continued into adulthood and ultimately inspired me to write Baseball Immortal. I spent hundreds of hours researching yesteryear’s game, pouring over archived editions of old newspapers, with a major focus on the Detroit Free Press.

As you can see, I have been an avid baseball fan all my life (with professional football and basketball a close second and third, respectively). I still look forward to pouring over box scores of the previous day’s games and watching highlights on MLB.com.  It was a great thrill to partner with MLB.com and to offer episodes of the first book of the Baseball Immortal trilogy on their website. I have been gratified by the enthusiastic response to the story by many readers.  

I would love to hear about your experience in reading Baseball Immortal as well as any questions or comments you may have. You can write to me at: baseballimmortal@gmail.com or contact me here. I will do my best to answer all emails. Also, please let me know if you are interested in being placed on the waiting list for books 2 and 3 of the trilogy.

Once again, “I hope you enjoy the ride!”

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